The Clemson Tigers have won the 2016 National Championship Game. Had someone said that they would even be back in the College Football Playoff in September, they may have been mocked. This team didn’t look like a College Football Playoff team then. Now, they’re national champions.
Clemson’s Cinderella Story
The Tigers began the season with a close win over Auburn and struggled a lot against FCS Troy. In the Auburn game, quarterback Deshaun Watson finished with a QBR of 58.3. In the Troy game, Watson threw two interceptions and had a QBR of 36.5.
The media ripped Watson for his performance in the first two games. Many said that he was not the same quarterback that took the team to the National Championship last year.
Clemson overcame the adversities with two blowout wins over South Carolina State and Georgia Tech. On Oct. 1, 2016, the Tigers faced their biggest challenge in third ranked Louisville and their dominant quarterback in Lamar Jackson. Clemson was able to pull off the win behind five touchdowns from Watson.
Things didn’t get easier for Clemson, either. Over two of their next three games, they came a missed field goal from avoiding the upset against NC State and gave up four touchdowns to Florida State running back Dalvin Cook. While both games were wins, the Tigers weren’t looking like National Championship contenders.
Down, But Not Out
On Nov. 12, 2016, the Pitt Panthers went into Clemson, SC and were able to knock off the second-ranked Tigers with a last-second field goal. Clemson’s National Championship hopes looked bleak.
Surprisingly, Clemson remained in the top four after that game. They would need to win or to remain there and get to the College Football Playoff.
A big key to Clemson getting back to the title game was wide receiver Mike Willams. He was Watson’s favorite target on the field this season. Williams finishes the season with 98 catches for 1,360 yards and 11 touchdowns. That performance includes an eight-catch performance for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Clemson was able to win out, winning their final three games of the regular season. That included a win in the ACC Championship over Virginia Tech. They finished second in the final College Football Playoff and went on to dominate Ohio State in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.
Before Clemson beat down on the Buckeyes, Alabama’s defense led them to a dominating win over Washington.
The rematch was set. Clemson would play Alabama for a chance at the national title for the second consecutive year.
Tide vs Tigers: The Rematch
Clemson was an underdog coming in and all throughout the game. They fell behind 14-0 early and also was down by 10 in the fourth quarter.
They never gave up, though. The offense stood strong and the defense was able to stop Alabama’s high-powered offense. With one second left, Watson threw a touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow.
That was it. After an onside kick recovered by Clemson, the Tigers did it. Through all of their struggles all season long, they overcame and won the National Championship in one of the best college football games ever played.